Getting the Heart Back to Work

Bone marrow stem cells heal myocardial infraction scars

(RxWiki News) After a heart attack, parts of the heart muscle can become damaged, making it harder to pump the usual amount of blood. Now, researchers may have found a way to get these damaged parts back to work.

In an ongoing clinical trial, researchers found that they can heal the scars caused by a heart attack using a new technique, which involves injecting the walls of patients' hearts with stem cells from their own bone marrow. In no more than three months after receiving the injection, the damaged parts of patients' hearts began working again. After six months, their hearts returned to a normal size.

dailyRx Insight: Bone marrow stem cells may get damaged hearts working.

While this study was small in size, the findings are still promising for heart attack victims and patients with heart disease. As the clinical trial continues, the safety and success of this treatment will become clearer.

For their study, Joshua Hare, M.D., and his team found eight men around 57 years of age who had suffered heart attacks. After injecting bone marrow stem cells into the walls of the men's hearts, not only did the damaged areas return to normal function, but their hearts also shrank 15 to 20 percent, returning to a normal size.

Additionally, none of the patients experienced serious side effects from the treatment.

Heart disease (coronary artery disease, CAD)is the leading cause of death in the United States. CAD is primarily results from diet and habits, with the greatest risk factors coming from smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Genetics and family history also play a large part. The primary symptom of angina, commonly known as chest pain, occurs when the artery is almost completely blocked. Plaques made up of cholesterol and fibrous tissue lodge in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. Complete closure or rupture of the plaque can cause a myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. Preventive surgical treatment is common, either by angioplasty and coronary stents (widening a blocked artery) or coronary artery bypass grafting (surgically replacing a damaged coronary artery with another one from the body).Management consists of a host of different medications for high blood pressure (diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors), and cholesterol control (statins like Lipitor®, Crestor®) as well as secondary measures such as daily aspirin, anti-platelet medication (Plavix®), and exercise.

The study is published in Circulation Research, a journal of the American Heart Association. 

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Review Date: 
March 21, 2011